J. Holley Watts
BRIDGING THE GAP
On a shelf in the corner of my bedroom,
sits a pink stuffed toy rabbit
with large round eyes and a polka dot tummy.
It was my gift for you and a joke—
How would you explain that to your Marines?!
The look of rapt attention on its upturned face
would remind you of our late night conversations
and the large round eyes, well…
It went half way around the world… and back…
but you never got the joke.
This is my attempt to bridge that gap,
to reach across time and space
to that Sunday, May 9th, 1968… Mother’s Day.
Decades later the Houston II survivors
couldn’t call it anything repeatable.
There was no point.
Action reports of Haivan Pass
reveal days of overwhelming noise and horror.
To a man they need only look away to return
and their loss of you is still fresh.
My memories are rounded out by theirs,
your family’s and the dreams you shared
on your last tape home--
You felt safe, you said,
and knew what you were doing was right.
You’d found your inner peace.
You loved your men, the Vietnamese people
and felt good about being their doc.
Your plans of tailored suits from Hong Kong,
a green MGB, Japanese stereo equipment,
finishing college and going to med school
… all vanished the second
the snipers found their mark.
Though hit several times you kept on.
Then came that flash of light and searing heat
and The Silence swallowed you whole.
Your body knelt in final prayer
and you were sucked instantly
into the center of the universe,
into the whiteness of Forever.
You’d told me only five months earlier
you wouldn’t be coming home.
I was afraid.
You said it again as if by repeating it
even you’d hear it differently
and it wouldn’t be true.
I was afraid to love you
and afraid to let you go,
afraid to believe you and terrified to imagine
what I knew could be the reality.
No, I can’t come see you.
We both agreed (overcautiously) that
OF COURSE you’d be coming home.
It’ll be over before you know it
and I’ll see you again… I’ll see you soon.
Now I can see how short the distance was
between us that Christmas separated only
by mirror images of the New York City skyline.
My remorse is thick and unyielding.
I had to be near you again……
but the heavy April winds and rain conspired
to disguise the landmarks I needed to find you.
In the growing darkness
flooded paths and blended boundaries
made the markers your sister used to guide me
impossible to count.
But a twig,
twisted and floating alone on the water,
pointed like an ancient finger
to the letters of your name
on your now submerged headstone.
… I kept the twig.
©Copyright 2005 by J. Holley Watts